A/N- Finally, the Epilogue. A gilt edged thank you to michaelfmx, who graciously spent hours editing and making wise suggestions along the way. Zettel and WvonB, merci beaucoup, for your encouragement. To the patient readers who followed the story, to those who PM'd and reviewed, thank you.
He is the half part of a blessed man,
Left to be finished by such as she:
And she a fair divided excellence,
Whose fullness of perfection lies in him.
Shakespeare-(King John, Act 2 Scene 1)
From Chapter 19
Sarah had a dozen questions. But she needed to make one thing very clear. "Sir, I want to help…."
Mac Showers smiled. "I sense a 'but' coming…"
"Sir, I'm engaged to Chuck Bartowski….I can't, I won't,leave him….. even though this would be a dream assignment for me."
Mac stood up and walked to his window. "Agent Walker, the posting will, of course, generously accommodate a married couple. There will be a flat in London, a car and a very healthy living allowance."
He walked back and sat down. "I'm quite sure that Diane at the NSA and Hortense at the DEA would be open to seeing Mr. Bartowski seconded to GCHQ.
"The NSA does have that huge operation up on that RAF base in Menwith Hill. I imagine GCHQ would be happy to have someone of Mr. Bartowski's abilities in their stable for a bit."
Mac Showers gave Sarah a ghost of a smile.
"Of course,I don't want to get ahead of myself and interfere in the affairs of the heart. That I leave to you and Mr. Bartowski."
He stood up and Sarah knew this was his way to signal the meeting had ended. He shook her hand and walked her to the door. "Please think on the matter and get back to me in…..say a couple of days."
Fourteen Months Later, May 2, 2009
Hi, my name is Chuck and here are some things you may not know.
I now live overseas. To be a little more precise, we live in the UK. I still work for the NSA, the CIA and the DEA. Sarah works for the CIA and is the chief liaison with MI6.
My life, er...excuse me our life, is a little peripatetic.
Ahhh, sorry, I think I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, let's rewind the tape. Sarah Walker and I are a married couple. It all happened within the space of two weeks. Sarah came back from a meeting with Mac Showers, the CIA Director. She was agitated and more anxious than I'd ever seen her.
It was obvious she wanted to tell me or ask me something.
She came into the bedroom, I was still propped up in bed because of my rib injury. Sarah paced back and forth at the foot of the bed. It looked like she was working up her courage….to do what…?
Finally, I couldn't stand the suspense anymore. "Sarah, please just spit it out….what's wrong?" She came and gingerly sat down on the edge of the bed, being careful due to my banged up condition.
After a deep intake of breath, she told me about Mac Showers' job offer. The last little piece of her story ….she relayed while looking intensely into my eyes. "Chuck, I think our engagement should be a short one."
In a hesitant voice she answered my question. "About two weeks….your ribs should be much better by then." She leaned forward and lightly touched her lips to mine. "The honeymoon should be in Scotland, there's a tiny island on the west coast…..called Lismore…you'll love it there, peaceful and beautiful."
Now, I think you know that I was dying to go to Paris. I mean it's something I've always wanted to do. To see the city of lights. Sarah didn't go into the why's…. but it's obvious that she has some issues with the City of Paris.
She wouldn't tell me the specifics. She would only say that something happened there…..some sort of test which left a bad taste in her mouth.
Anyways, when a tall, long legged, blue eyed blonde takes your head into her soft hands and looks intensely into your eyes well…it's hard to say no.
As she held my head in her warm hands….I could feel my heartbeat increase when she said. "Chuck, I'll make it up to you…..bigtime….if we can go to Lismore for the post nuptials".
I think, in that instance, I got an inkling into what being married to Sarah Walker would be like. I mean, one minute I'm afraid to move too quickly because of my ribs.
The next minute..or the next…well…we're going to be married in two weeks and have our honeymoon on a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the honeymoon would require me to move a lot more vigorously than I'm capable of at the moment.
Ellie flew out with Devon the next day. Sarah's apartment was crowded but alive with activity from dawn till dusk. Ellie and Sarah planned the wedding in record time. Much to my surprise, Casey accepted the invitation to attend. Carina was the maid of honor and Morgan was my best man.
Sarah told me she didn't need anyone to give her away. She would walk into our marriage by her own volition.
Sarah was of course correct, my ribs and left lung were feeling much better the day we married. I was, as they say, willing and able to perform my spousal duty on the tiny island of Lismore. The sheep didn't seem to bothered by the noise coming from our delightful hundred year old croft.
Hard to believe we've been married for fourteen months.
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Sarah wanted the two of us to have another session with the therapist, Dr. Owens.
We covered a lot of ground, but the piece I want to share is about a paradox Dr. Owens raised.
We were halfway through the session when Dr. Owens leaned forward. "Chuck and Sarah, I strongly suspect that as time goes on in your relationship, both of you, especially you Sarah, will start to relax your guard. The two of you will begin to feel very safe in each other's presence."
I was a little nervous. "Isn't that a good thing ….I mean to feel safe…in each other's presence?"
That's when Dr. Owens laid the paradox piece on us both. "As you both know, each of you have deep rooted abandonment issues. They haven't gone away, you'll be working on them the rest of your lives."
Dr. Owens stood up and started walking back and forth in front of us. "The safer you feel with each other, the better it is for you.
"However, the subconscious is a funny beast. Because you feel safe; your trust of each other will grow…rapidly. The subconscious will inevitably choose to start working on things it wants to sort out.
"However, up until now the subconscious wouldn't allow you to look at these issues… ….mainly because both of you were trying to survive …day to day."
I must've looked confused. Sarah was rooted in her seat, but I could tell she was also trying to figure out what the hell Dr. Owens was driving at.
"Let me put it another way. When you hit the tough spots in your marriage…keep talking, because most likely one or the other of you is working on some tough inner stuff. The reason you or Chuck is willing to work on the tough inner stuff…. It will be because you know the other person isn't going to reject you…Am I making sense to you?"
Sarah finally jumped into the discussion. "Are you saying that while I'm working on this subconscious…. Really shitty stuff….well it won't be easy on Chuck…..but I'm doing it because I know I'm safe with Chuck. And I'm going to risk being a bitch because he will hang in and still love me.
Dr. Owens nodded and smiled at Sarah. "Every couple goes through it….not every couple survives it. Some of my colleagues call it the power struggle."
I was sitting there and thinking Dr. Owens was talking through her hat.
Now I know your next question. Have Sarah and I had some of those 'power' struggles?
Hell, yes! Sarah Walker gives her opinions decidedly. She can be ….my god…she is a force of nature. But, I'm happy to say….so far we've managed to work through a couple of issues that have reared their heads.
I must say, Devon was absolutely correct, make up sex is truly awesome.
The CIA was very generous with our living allowance. Sarah got a promotion and I got a raise. I'm now on level 14, step 10 of the newly released OMB schedule. Oh, and Ellie got another $40,000 research grant.
My life with Sarah Walker is far from simple. But simple is boring.
Let me give you an idea what a normal week looks like, even though with Sarah's job there's lots of 'not-normal' weeks.
Monday to Wednesday I'm in London at the MI6 headquarters on the Thames. I work with their analysts and their IT Nerds, thereby fulfilling my obligation to the CIA. On Wednesday night I catch the train and head to York. I work Thursday and Friday at RAF Menwith Hill, thereby keeping General Diane Beckman happy with my obligations to the NSA.
Once every eight weeks Sarah has to go back to Langley for a week of briefings, requalification classes and reporting on her insights about our British friends. I spend the week back in DC working with Carina, thereby keeping the DEA happy.
So far, so good …..not perfect but the pay cheques keep arriving in my bank account. I can only assume my three masters like the work I'm doing.
Sarah spends Monday to Thursday in London. She catches the train to York on Thursday right after work. She then spends Friday with me at Menwith Hill, liaising with GCHQ.
We have two leased apartments (they call them flats over here). We have a two bedroom flat (thank you CIA) in Greenwich. The really neat thing is that Sarah and I can get to work at MI6 in twenty-seven minutes on the tube.
Sometimes, even though it takes longer….we'll take the Thames River bus and talk with each other as we cruise down the river to our stop in Greenwich.
As I mentioned earlier, Sarah joins me up in Yorkshire on Thursday night. I pick her up at the train station in York.
We have a tiny flat in a small, two pub village called Spofforth.
It's a half hour from the city of York and a half hour from Menwith Hill.
Most weeks we stay up in Yorkshire for the weekend. Sarah and I both love London, but we also love getting out of London.
Sometimes we head up to Edinburgh and spend the weekend with Sarah's friend and her former CIA instructor, Gayle Ardis, and her husband Brian.
On Sunday night we catch the train from York that goes back to London.
Like I said, that's in a normal week. Sometimes, Sarah is on surveillance work…..keeping an eye on the Russians. There are a lot of Russians in the UK. Rich ones, poor ones, nice ones, criminal ones and really nasty FSB types. The British are growing very, very concerned about the Russians and Putin.
Sarah speaks Russian fluently and enjoys working with the woman who runs the 'Russian desk' at MI6.
Emma Cowthorpe, who runs the Russian Desk, received a first class degree in Languages at Oxford. She was recruited by MI6 in her second year. If memory serves, I think Emma is the second daughter of Captain Harold Cowthorpe, RN, retired. Sarah likes Emma.
We've had Emma and her partner Roger over to our Greenwich flat a couple of times. After one, two or three drinks the two women slip into speaking Russian. Roger shrugs his shoulders gives me a look that says…. just wait….soon they'll start singing the 'Volga Boat' song. He then gently reminds Emma to please speak English!
York, UK. May 2, 2009- Noon
The market was crowded on this warm spring day. It had rained last night but now the sky was a brilliant blue. The sound of buskers, hawkers and people enjoying the day filled the street and rose up to the roof tops.
Sally Beckwith was working today. She was dressed in jeans and a blue windbreaker. Yesterday had been her seventeenth birthday. Sadly, there were no parents or siblings to celebrate with. She'd run away from a dysfunctional family at fourteen and learned to survive; staying out of the clutches of the social workers and the police.
Saturday's were always a great day for her and her crew of two teenage boys, Boyd and Mike.
She was a modern day 'artful dodger', a skilled pickpocket. She had been the boss of this crew for seven months. Twenty per cent of everything she stole went to her boss, Robert Cray. The head of the local gang.
Her target, a young couple, was fast approaching.
There was a tall brown-haired man walking and talking to a beautiful tall blonde woman. The woman's focus was on her companion. They were walking and laughing.
Sally nodded to her crew.
The two teenaged boys moved closer to initiate the bump technique on the young couple.
In under two seconds Sally would have the tall man's wallet and pass it off to Boyd. The couple were so caught up in each other that they wouldn't even notice until he went to pay for something.
Mike moved in to bump the blonde woman. Boyd bumped the tall man. Sally had her hands on the wallet.
Several things happened in less than three heart beats.
Mike let out a gasp and fell onto his knees. He was holding his stomach like he'd been punched.
Boyd was grasped firmly in the arms of the tall man and was struggling, with little success, to break free.
Sally felt the vise like grip on her wrist. The blonde woman was looking at her. She twisted Sally's wrist and pain shot all the way up her arm. The blonde then plucked the wallet from Sally's hand. Only then did she let go of her wrist.
Sally wondered what was going to happen next.
Was the couple going to call the police standing just a hundred yards away?
Sally waited for the inevitable, wondering how she would get out of this one.
Instead, the blonde woman stepped back and tapped the tall man's shoulder to let Boyd go. Boyd and Mike quickly disappeared into the crowd.
Sally's first instinct was to run. However, she was transfixed by the deep blue eyes of the tall blonde. She just stood there.
The blonde handed the wallet back to the tall man with the curly brown hair.
He gave the blonde a warm smile then he turned to Sally. "Wow, did you ever pick the wrong couple to steal from. Actually, if it had just been me…it would've worked…you're pretty good."
The blonde finally spoke. "What's your name?" For some reason Sally couldn't explain, she actually answered the question instead of telling the woman to go to hell.
"Okay, Sally. My husband's correct….you're a good pick pocket….he wouldn't have noticed if he'd been by himself." The tall woman's eyes were measuring Sally from head to toe.
"I've done what you're doing. This won't end well for you."
Sally looked carefully at the blonde. She didn't look like someone who talked a lot.
The blonde sighed inwardly and reached into her purse and pulled out a business card. The card was blank with only a phone number. "When the time comes… if…when you want out…call that number…ask for Sarah."
And just like that the blonde turned on her heel, grabbed her husband's arm and they walked into the market.
Sarah was quiet as she and Chuck walked, side by side, away from the Shambles market.
Chuck was very patient with Sarah when she went quiet like this. Finally, he bent down and whispered to her. "A penny…or here in York…..I guess you say.. a farthing for your thoughts?"
Sarah came out of her own thoughts and put her arm around his waist. "Chuck, that young girl is just trying to survive….survive life. I know what that's like…." She tugged on his waist to bring him even closer.
"Chuck, do you realize how much being with you means to me?" He squeezed her shoulder to let her know that he knew.
He gave her a tiny bump with his hip. "You giving that 'artful dodger', your ultra-private number … is I think a first. I hope someday in the future Sally can muster the courage to reach out to you."
That Night, Village of Spofforth, Yorkshire
Sarah lay in their queen sized bed waiting for Chuck to finish up in the bathroom.
They'd had a great day with each other doing nothing special. She could relax with Chuck, let her guard down and live in the moment. Be in the moment.
They'd gone to York that morning for an early breakfast. Later, they'd walked hand in hand and talked as they explored the oldest part of the town. Chuck was a voracious reader. He gave Sarah a running commentary on the history of the town. Apparently, York or 'Jorvick" is the best preserved Viking city that has ever been excavated. Before that it was a Roman provincial town back in 71AD.
After the incident with Sally, the pick pocket, they'd driven out to the little village of Kilburn.
Chuck had been eager to show her a place he'd discovered while driving around.
In Kilburn there is a long established family firm that makes solid oak furniture, the old way. They still used adzes on well-seasoned oak. When the piece of furniture was finished by the craftsman. He or she carved a tiny little mouse onto a hidden part of the furniture.
Sarah smiled to herself because while they were in Kilburn, she saw an oak chair, she knew Chuck wanted.
She would go back by herself, next week, and buy it for Chuck's upcoming birthday. It wasn't lost on her that this would be the first piece of furniture they'd purchased together as a married couple.
Everything else in their two flats was either provided by the CIA or came as part of the furnished flat. More and more she kept thinking of acquiring a place for them. They'd talked about it several times and Chuck was eager to get on with it.
She was growing weary of living in some rented or 'company' owned apartment. Fortunately, Chuck had shipped over his Tron poster. It had pride of place in their bedroom here.
They both wanted to start a family and the discussions were quickly moving from the theoretical to let's get started.
Chuck was wise and ever so patient with her caution, especially when change was knocking on the door.
She looked over at the bathroom, she wanted him in bed beside her. "Chuck, it's not a good idea to keep your wife waiting…..what's taking so long?"
Sarah reflected on the fact that she'd smiled and laughed more in the last fourteen months than in the previous eight years of her life.
She was happy. Chuck was her light, he brightened her day and her night. She in turn was his joy and often his greatest desire.
Sarah fingered her jade green silk negligee that she was sure Chuck would like.
Being married to Chuck Bartowski had changed Sarah, just as she was aware that she'd changed Chuck. He was a more confident in himself. He had cast aside the belief that Sarah was too beautiful, too amazing…too everything. His belief that she was out of his league.
Sarah snorted. What utter nonsense, but it took time for her to convince him this was truly a marriage of equals.
The light in the bathroom finally went out and Chuck came towards the bed.
He suddenly stopped.
Sarah looked up at him. This was unusual and unexpected. Chuck normally would hop into bed and she would meld her body into his….immediately putting her cold feet up against his warm feet and legs.
"What's up Chuck?"
He started a slow pacing up and down the length of their bed. "Ahhh, I wanted to tell you something….I've wanted to tell you for a long time now. I know that secrets in a marriage are not a good thing…."
He looked down at her, watching for a reaction. She didn't show him how nervous he'd just made her. What the hell….I mean where was Chuck going with this?…."
Instead she tried to calm him. Get him to talk. "Breathe Chuck….always breathe…"
He was standing there in his black, Lord of the Rings, one ring to rule them all T-shirt and his black boxer shorts.
"Sarah, do you remember when you told me about the times you didn't follow Graham's termination orders?" She managed to nod. Her stomach did a flip.
She felt a chill go through her body. God, I don't want to go down this road…not again. It was tough enough the first time.
"Well, you mentioned Gars, the young elite hacker. You remember, instead of killing him you handed him over to MI6." He looked at his wife, he could see that she'd tensed up.
"Okay, you also mentioned some other hackers the CIA was looking for…you mentioned Orion, the Piranha and …some others."
He looked down at her deep blue eyes…."Sarah….I'm the Piranha…I don't want to hide that from you….not any longer."
Sarah felt the relief flood through her. But she didn't show it to him….not just yet.
Of course he was the Piranha! His skill with computers and hacking was acknowledged on both sides of the Atlantic by the CIA and MI6. She and Tom Corrigan were officially still looking for Orion and the Piranha.
Looks like she'd just found one of them.
Sarah put on her serious, boy you're in 'real deep shit' face. She matched the look to her tone.
"So, you're telling me that my husband is one of the world's elite hackers….someone who's never been caught by the CIA , NSA, MI6 or the FSB….you're that guy?."
Chuck looked concerned and a little sheepish. "Yep, I'm that guy….you're the only person who knows that….I mean besides me."
Sarah realized that Chuck had just given her a very special gift. It had taken him fourteen months of marriage to finally trust her enough with one of his most precious and dangerous secrets.
But Chuck had given her a gift that came with a curse.
She knew that Chuck didn't want anyone else to know his secret.
Certainly he didn't want her employer, the CIA, and certainly not the NSA to know who he was.
She would now have to add one more secret to her list. A list of important information, secrets that the CIA didn't know about Sarah Walker….and now, added to that list…. a secret about her husband.
Sarah laid her head back down on the pillow. Her golden hair spread over the pillow… she looked up at him. The light caught her dark blue eyes.
Chuck was still standing, stock still, by the side of the bed. Sarah's tone was softer and filled with a whisper of promise.
"Chuck, come and lie down beside me. It is my bounded duty to carefully and slowly interrogate the Piranha. I'm going to have to winkle out all of his secrets…..this may take all night"